Friday, 30 November 2018

Paige Bellerby

Paige Bellerby is a racewinning rallycross driver in the UK at both junior and senior level.

She began racing in the BTRDA Junior Rallycross Championship in the winter of 2009, when she was fourteen. This was not even her first motorsport experience; she had been racing a Junior Special in autograss for two years. She learned to drive at the age of seven in a Nissan Micra.

The 2009 winter season was just practice before tackling the full championship in 2010. She scored one win at Blyton, and four second places. At the end of the season, she won the title, due to her consistent presence in finals.

In 2011, she moved up to the Swift Sport junior rallycross series, and was third overall, with a best finish of third, achieved twice at Mondello Park and Knockhill.

She moved on to senior competition in 2012, in the form of the Swift Sport Cup, which uses a similar Suzuki Swift to the junior class. Her best finish was fourth, at Pembrey, and she was eighth overall.

Her second season in the Swift series ended up being very much a part-season. She only managed to compete in the last round, at Croft, her home circuit, finishing eighth.

After sitting out much of 2014 as well, Paige returned to action at Pembrey, driving a Lotus Exige in the SuperNational class of the British championship. Her best finish in the new car was fifth, in her last race of the season.

In 2015, she raced in the British Supernational championship, in a Lotus Exige. At Croft, the final round, she became the first female driver to win an "A" Final in the class. Her final championship position was third.

The Exige became her regular car and her “A” Final win was far from being a one-off.

In 2016, she won two "A" Finals, at Croft and Mondello Park, on her way to another Supernational third.

She improved this to second in 2017, winning three rounds outright including two at her favoured circuit of Croft, at the beginning and end of the season. The Round One victory was against Ash Simpson, who has won the Supernational title twice.

Her opposition upped their game in 2018 and she did not manage a win that year, but she was still fourth in the championship with three second places, at Lydden and Croft.

In 2019, she was unable to defeat Tristan Ovendon, who won every single round, but she did manage to keep herself in second place, with two runner-up spots and one third in Supernational. Lydden was one of her happiest hunting grounds and she also ran strongly at Pembrey.

Paige is the daughter of multiple rallycross champion Dave Bellerby. Her sister Drew also races in rallycross, as does her cousin Matilda Procter.

(Image copyright Paige Bellerby)

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Dorothy Champney

Dorothy (left) with Kay Petre at Le Mans

Dorothy Champney is most famous for racing at Le Mans in 1934. She and Kay Petre were thirteenth, in a Riley Ulster Imp.

A bout of diphtheria meant that Dorothy missed the 1935 race, but her car was driven by Elsie Wisdom and Kay instead. This seems to mark the end of her short motorsport career.

Dorothy Conyers Nelson Champney was born in Scarborough in 1909. Her first appearance in newspaper coverage of motorsport came in 1932, when she and co-driver Miss GJ Derby crashed their car into a telegraph pole between Honiton and Exeter during the RAC 1000 Miles Rally. Neither the drivers or their un-named female passenger were seriously injured. The car was a Riley, the marque to which she was loyal throughout her career.

Her Le Mans achievements are her most documented, but she was more of a rally driver and actually rarely ventured onto the circuits.

Despite an inauspicious start, she became a fine rally driver. In 1933 she entered the Brooklands, Scottish, Ulster and RAC Rallies in her Riley, coming sixth in Class 3 in the latter. 1933 was a “hat trick” year for her, as she secured Ladies’ Prizes in the RAC, Scottish and Ulster Rallies. Her Scottish win helped Riley to a clean sweep in the Small Car class. Dorothy’s own car then won her a class second in the coachwork competition.

She also won the Coupe des Dames in that year's Alpine Rally, co-driven by a Miss L Hobbs. Using the same car, she competed in a Shelsley Walsh hillclimb, and in the Women's Automobile and Sports Association's Cotswold Trial.

In January 1934 she tackled her second international rally, the Monte Carlo. She made the finish in 58th place, having started at snowy Umea in Sweden. A second run in the Alpine Rally followed in summer, after Le Mans, after her third RAC Rally.

She married Victor Riley, of the Riley car company, in 1934. They had two children, a son and a daughter. Dorothy died a widow in 1968, at the age of 58.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Martina Danhelova

Martina (right) with co-driver Karolina Jugasova in 2015)

Martina Daňhelová (also known as Martina Jerhotová-Daňhelová since 2015) is from the Czech Republic and is one of the leading female drivers in Eastern Europe.

She has been rallying since at least 2008. Her first car was a VW Polo, which she used for her first two seasons. She entered two rounds of the 2008 Czech Sprintrally Championship in the Polo and finished both times, then did six more rallysprints in 2009.

In 2010, she started to participate in some longer stage rallies, including the Rallye Český Krumlov. Her first big Czech rally ended in an accident on the eighth stage but she managed to finish four rallysprints.

However, reliability was an issue that year. Engine trouble put her out of her second Czech championship round, the Herkul Rally Pribram. Her next event, the Rally Jeseníky, was done in a Honda Civic, and she was 51st.

The Polo returned to service for much of the 2011 season, in which Martina did her first European Rally Cup event (the Rallye Český Krumlov), and her first rally outside the Czech Republic (the Thüringen Rally, in Germany). She was 38th in both, her best-ever overall finish. Her other events, a mix of rallysprints and Czech championship outings, gave her a few decent class positions.

For the last two Czech Sprintrally events of the season, she switched to Renault Clio, and continued her good class finishes.

The Clio proved the more reliable of her two cars in 2012; the Polo’s gearbox gave way twice and then had another mechanical failure on the Hustopece Rally. Her best finish was 35th, third in class, in the Rally Agropa, in the Clio.

Her biggest rally was the Barum Czech Rally Zlín, part of the IRC. She drove the Civic and was 63rd overall, sixth in class. At the end of the season, she also drove an Alfa Romeo 147 at the Rallyshow Uherský Brod, although the event was cancelled after first stage following a serious accident.

Her cars for 2013 were the Clio, and the 147, which she drove for two different teams. The 147, run by the Rada Martin team, was mainly used for the Sprintrally championship. Her best rallysprint result was 29th with a class win, at the Rally Agropa.

In January she made another foray into the rest of Europe:  the International Jänner Rallye in Austria, driving the Clio. She was 48th overall, third in class. This was one of four European Cup rallies she contested that year, three of which she finished.

Her best result also came from driving the Clio: she was 24th in the Rally Bohemia and won her class. A second attempt at the Barum Czech Rally Zlín gave her 36th, and third in class. She won her class in the Rally Bohemia, driving the Clio for CK Motorsport.

In 2014 she stuck with one car and team, rallying the Clio in the Czech Republic. Her programme included one European outing, the Jänner Rallye, in which she was 40th. She entered two European Trophy rallies in the Czech Republic: a rear axle broke on the Barum event, and she was 21st in the Hustopeče Rally. Her best results came from rallysprints; she won her class in the Czech Sprintrally Championship.

Her car for 2015 was a Clio, and she was second in the ERC Ladies' Cup after a class win and 42nd place in the Jänner Rally in Austria. This class victory her first points finish in the Ladies’ Cup. The rest of the year was spent in the Czech Republic, taking in one further ERC round, the Rallye Český Krumlov in which she was 34th, third in class.

2016 featured a reduced programme for Martina, who drove a Clio in the Krumlov Rally in May, finishing 46th. She became a mother to a daughter that year and took a step back from motorsport. She still retains an interest in rallying as her family compete - her father Vlastimil Daňhel has co-driven for her on occasion - but she is now involved in breeding horses.

(Image from

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Miki Koyama

Mihime “Miki“ Koyama races in Formula 4 in Japan. She was also the 2017 champion in the women-only Kyojo Cup.

Miki was 18 when she first started racing cars, although she raced karts both at home in Japan and abroad from the age of five, between 2003 and 2013. 2015 was her debut season in Formula 4, following a driver training programme. She entered the last four races of the year. Her best finishes were at Motegi, but were only two 26th places.

In 2016, she was set to race full-time in Formula 4, driving for the miNami aoYama Project, but this did not happen, and she only made five appearances from 14 rounds. Her best result was an eleventh place, at Okayama. One of her team-mates was Ayaka Imahashi, another young female driver.

She did a full season of Formula 4 in 2017 but struggled. Her best finish was 18th, at Autopolis. She was unplaced in the championship. Mid-season, she contested the two rounds of the inaugural Kyojo Cup at Fuji, driving a VITA-01 sports prototype. She won both races and was crowned the champion when the third round was abandoned due to a typhoon.

This was not her first experience of sportscar racing; she took part in some rounds of the 2016 Interproto Series, earning one third place. This is a one-make sportscar series like the Kyojo Cup that uses the “Kuruma”, a spec car.

In 2017, she did more one-make racing in the Honda N-One Owners Cup, which uses the N-One supercompact. Miki participated in five races and won two. Staying with Honda, she made a guest appearance in the FIT Challenge Cup, another one-make series.

For Miki, 2018 was split again between Formula 4, the Kyojo Cup and guest spots in Japanese sportscar series. This year, she did her first 24-hour race in June. She was third in the Super Taikyu 24 Hours at Fuji, as part of a six-driver team in a Toyota GT86.

In Formula 4, she drove for the Field Motorsports team and was 15th overall. It was her best season to date and included three top-ten finishes: a seventh and two ninths at Fuji. The series had big entries of more than 20 cars per race.

She won three rounds of the Kyojo Cup and retained her title in 2018, despite having a disaster in the last round and only finishing eighth.

Miki jumped ship from one all-female championship to another in 2019, moving to Europe to contest the inaugural W Series. She was praised by observers for her overtaking abilities, but she could not quite get onto the podium, finishing fourth once at Misano. She was seventh overall.

It was a busy year for Miki domestically too. She entered most of the Japanese F4 championship, earning three top-ten finishes, and also raced F3 cars in the Asian Championship. She was fourteenth overall after a part-season of six races at Chang and Suzuka, with a best finish of seventh at Suzuka.

(Image from

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Margie Smith-Haas

Margie (Mary Margaret) Smith-Haas is an American sportscar driver who raced at Le Mans in 1984 and 1985. She usually drove Porsches.

In 1984, she drove a Porsche 930 run by Charles Ivey Racing, sharing with Paul Smith and David Ovey. The car made it to just under half-distance before an oil leak triggered its retirement. The following year, she drove a J. Winther Denmark URD C83 prototype, which also did not finish. Its BMW engine expired after 141 laps, despite the best efforts of Margie, Jens Winther and David Mercer.

Le Mans was only a small part of Margie’s career. She was active in motorsport between 1978 1995, beginning when she was 28 years old and recently married to Paul Haas. The couple met competing in a time trial.

Her first major race was the Road Atlanta 500 Miles in 1979. She drove a Porsche 914 run by Personalized Porsche with Paul Haas and Wayne Baker. They were 27th overall and eleventh in class.

The Personalized Porsche car came out again for a second IMSA race, the Riverside 5 Hours in 1980. Margie was 26th, as part of a three-driver team with Paul and Jeff Scott.

A break from racing followed, but when Margie returned to competition in 1983 she was no less ambitious. She raced in Europe for the first time, beginning with the Monza 1000km in April. This was the first of four European Endurance Championship races she entered. Her car was a Group C Porsche CK5, shared with Tony Dron and team owner Richard Cleare. They retired early on with an oil leak.

She was scheduled to contest the Silverstone 1000km for Edgar Dören’s team but did not make the start, despite qualifying in 28th place. Her next event was the Brands Hatch 1000km, the first of two in a Charles Ivey Racing Porsche 930. Margie, Paul Smith and David Ovey took the Group B car to 15th place against the Group C leviathans, and then finished thirteenth at Mugello.

Having shared a track with motorsport royalty like Jacky Ickx and Bob Wollek for much of the season, Margie found herself among Hollywood royalty in April when she partnered actor Gene Hackman for the Riverside 6 Hours. She was driving a Toyota Celica run by Dan Gurney’s All-American Racers team. The event, which was overshadowed by the death of Rolf Stommelen, led to a 16th place for Margie.

She did some more European Endurance rounds in 1984, again in the Charles Ivey 930, but could not finish any of them, including Le Mans as mentioned above. Le Mans was not the only 24-hour she entered, however: she was part of a three-driver team for the Daytona 24 Hours, driving a Porsche 911 RSR for Team Dallas with Paul Gilgan and John Zouzelka. They were 27th, sixth in class.  

Later in the year she did her first race in the southern hemisphere. She was invited by Gebhardt Motorsport to drive its BMW-engined prototype at the Sandown 1000km in Australia, as part of an all-female team. Margie, Cathy Muller and Australian Sue Ransom managed 95 laps, somewhat under half-distance, before the car’s suspension gave way.

Margie’s 1985 Le Mans outing became her only big race of the year. She attempted to qualify for the Daytona 24 Hours in a Porsche 924 run by El Salvador Racing, but did not even make the official qualifying sessions. Her career was now in one of its leaner periods. In 1986, she tried to enter the Trans Am series in a Porsche 924, but the car was unreliable and never made the start of either race for which she officially registered.

She and Paul managed to get the 924 to two IMSA races in 1987, at Portland and Del Mar. They did enter more, but did not start. Margie was 27th in the Portland 300km and twelfth in the 45-minute Del Mar race, driving solo this time.

In 1988, she joined the American City Racing League, representing San Diego. This was the first year that the championship ran. Margie ran the three-car San Diego team that raced against similar teams from Hollywood, Sacramento and other US cities. Her own racing season was shortened as she spent the first part of it recovering from neck surgery after a road traffic accident.

She competed in the Sports 2000 class using a 2000cc one-make Sports 2000 car.. After a couple of seasons she became one of its leading drivers, finishing third in 1991 and winning the title in 1994 after leading for most of the season. This was the first win in a pro racing series for a female driver, in the USA at least.

Her last major sportscar race was the 1995 Daytona 24 Hours. Margie was back in a Group C car, driving a Spice SE90 for Screaming Eagles Racing. Her co-drivers included another Hollywood actor, Craig T Nelson. They did not finish following an accident.

Her last professional race looks to have been one of the ACRL rounds in 1996. She did four races in the series that year and was eleventh in the final standings.

She did return to the tracks briefly in 2002 for some races in the ACRL and was thirteenth overall.

After her retirement, she was a member of the all-female PPG Pace Car team attached to CART. At present, she runs a small company producing car-themed gifts, chiefly novelty cushions in the shape of famous racing cars.

(Image from